The renewable energy industry sector is still waiting on a Federal Government decision on the Renewable Energy Target (RET). This is vital to the health of an industry which has been losing investment because of uncertainty about its future.
As the mining boom eases and unemployment increases, it would make sense for the Government to promote a clean industry which already employs many Australians and has the potential to employ many more if the right incentives are in place. The fact that it seems determined to ignore both the employment and climate positives of an expanding renewables sector suggests a "dinosaur" ideological mindset.
Late in March John Hewson, former Liberal Party Leader, showed his concern about the situation of the Australian renewables industry. He delivered a stinging attack on Australia's three major power companies – Origin, Energy Australia and AGL.
Hewson was concerned at the part these three, who control more than 70% of the energy retail market in Australia, are having in thwarting the development of renewable energy . He believes that these companies' influence encouraged the Federal Government's inquiry into the RET which was headed by climate sceptic Dick Warburton. Unsurprisingly the inquiry recommended the cutting of the RET, something the Abbott Government has been determined to pursue despite its pre-election promise to keep the RET at 41,000GWh.
According to Mr Hewson the big three retailers claim to support renewable energy while they are lobbying to undermine it. He is also concerned that they have been "getting away with screwing households by hitting customers with almost obscene profit margins as energy retailers."
He said, "But here's the good news. The Australian public, the vast majority of us who support cleaner and cheaper power from renewable energy and are opposed to dirty coal and damaging coal seam gas, have the ability to reclaim control over our public policy.
"In order to stop vested interests like Origin, AGL and Energy Australia who have much to gain by halting the growth of renewable energy, all we need to do is switch our energy provider to a company backed by 100% renewable energy."
- L Blain
This article was published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Daily Examiner on April 13.